Branch v. Crowther
MEMORANDUM DECISION granting 12 Repoondent's Motion to Dismiss; IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a certificate of appealability is DENIED. This action is DISMISSED with prejudice. Signed by Judge Dale A. Kimball on 8/15/17. (jlw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF UTAH, CENTRAL DIVISION
CLARENCE SHEDWOOD BRANCH,
MEMORANDUM DECISION &
ORDER DISMISSING PETITION
FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS
Case No. 2:16-CV-11-DAK
Judge Dale A. Kimball
THIS MATTER IS BEFORE THE COURT on Petitioner Clarence Shedwood Branch’s
petition for a writ of habeas corpus. 28 U.S.C.S. § 2254 (2017). The Court has carefully
considered the pleadings and relevant law. Now being fully advised, the Court concludes that
Petitioner’s petition is untimely. See 28 id. § 2244(d)(1). The Court therefore DISMISSES the
petition with prejudice.
Federal law imposes “a 1-year period of limitation . . . to an application for a writ of
habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court.” 28 id. §
2244(d)(1). This period generally runs from “the date on which the judgment became final by the
conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review.” Id. Petitioner
did not appeal. Therefore, Petitioner’s conviction became final on the last day he could have
filed a notice of appeal.
Utah requires a notice of appeal to be filed “within 30 days after the date of entry of the
judgment or order appealed from.” Utah R. App. P. 4(a). “Failure to timely file an appeal …
constitutes a waiver of the right to appeal.” State v. Houskeeper, 2002 UT 118, ¶ 23, 62 P.3d
Petitioner’s judgment was entered December 22, 2005. The last day he could have filed a
timely notice of appeal was thirty days later--January 21, 2006. By statute, that is the date
Petitioner’s conviction thus became final. The federal one-year limitation period began running
on that date and expired on January 21, 2007. Petitioner filed his petition in this case on January
4, 2016, nearly nine years late.
A. Statutory Tolling
By statute, the one-year period may be tolled while a state post-conviction petition is
pending. See 28 U.S.C.S. § 2244(d)(2) (2017). The law provides that “[t]he time during which a
properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the
pertinent judgment or claim is pending shall not be counted toward any period of limitation
under this subsection.” Id. However, a “state court petition . . . that is filed following the
expiration of the federal limitations period ‘cannot toll that period because there is no period
remaining to be tolled.’” Tinker v. Moore, 255 F.3d 1331, 1333 (11th Cir. 2001) (quoting
Webster v. Moore, 199 F.3d 1256, 1259 (11th Cir. 2000); see also Fisher v. Gibson, 262 F.3d
1135, 1142-43 (10th Cir. 2001) (same). Because Petitioner did not file his state post-conviction
case until March 12, 2013, it did not toll AEDPA’s limitation period, which had already expired
more than six years before in January 2007.
B. Equitable Tolling
So, Petitioner has no ground for statutory tolling. He does, however, offer arguments for
equitable tolling. He suggests that he is not trained in the law; did not initially realize he may
have a claim; was delayed by the allegedly state-created impediment of contract-attorney lack of
help and conflict of interest; and is actually innocent.
The Court addresses whether the circumstances underlying these arguments trigger
equitable tolling to save Petitioner from the period of limitation's operation. "Equitable tolling
will not be available in most cases, as extensions of time will only be granted if 'extraordinary
circumstances' beyond a prisoner's control make it impossible to file a petition on time."
Calderon v. U.S. District Court, 128 F.3d 1283, 1288 (9th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted). Those
situations include times "'when a prisoner is actually innocent'" or "'when an adversary's
conduct--or other uncontrollable circumstances--prevents a prisoner from timely filing, or when
a prisoner actively pursues judicial remedies but files a defective pleading during the statutory
period.'" Stanley, 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 9872, at *4 (quoting Gibson, 232 F.3d at 808 (citation
omitted)). And, Petitioner "has the burden of demonstrating that equitable tolling should apply."
Lovato v. Suthers, No. 02-1132, 2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 14371, at *5 (10th Cir. July 15, 2002)
(unpublished). Against the backdrop of these general principles, the Court considers Petitioner's
Extraordinary or Uncontrollable Circumstance
Petitioner asserts that his lateness should be overlooked because he lacked legal
resources, legal knowledge, and had only limited help and misinformation from prison contract
attorneys. Petitioner has "failed to elaborate on how these circumstances" affected his ability to
bring his petition earlier. Johnson v. Jones, No. 08-6024, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 8639, at *5
(10th Cir. April 21, 2008) (order denying certificate of appealability). The argument that a
prisoner "had inadequate law library facilities" does not support equitable tolling. McCarley v.
Ward, Nos. 04-7114, 04-7134, 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 14335, at *3-4 (10th Cir. July 15, 2005);
see also Miller v. Marr, 141 F.3d 976, 978 (10th Cir. 1998) ("It is not enough to say that the . . .
facility lacked all relevant statutes and case law or that the procedure to request specific
materials was inadequate."). Further, it is well settled that "'ignorance of the law, even for an
incarcerated pro se petitioner, generally does not excuse prompt filing.'" Marsh v. Soares, 223
F.3d 1217, 1220 (10th Cir. 2000) (citation omitted). Finally, simply put, "'[t]here is no
constitutional right to an attorney in state post-conviction proceedings. Consequently, a
petitioner cannot claim constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel in such proceedings.'"
Thomas v. Gibson, 218 F.3d 1213, 1222 (10th Cir. 2000) (quoting Coleman v. Thompson, 501
U.S. 722, 752 (1991) (citations omitted)); see also 28 U.S.C.S. § 2254(i) (2017) ("The
ineffectiveness or incompetence of counsel during Federal or State collateral post-conviction
proceedings shall not be a ground for relief in a proceeding arising under section 2254."). It
follows that Petitioner's contention that the prison contract attorneys' misinformation and lack of
help thwarted his habeas filings does not toll the period of limitation. See Steed v. Head, 219
F.3d 1298, 1300 (11th Cir. 2000) ("An attorney's miscalculation of the limitations period or
mistake is not a basis for equitable tolling.").
Petitioner has not met his burden of showing that--during the running of the federal
period of limitation and beyond--he faced extraordinary circumstances that stopped him from
timely filing or took specific steps to "'diligently pursue his federal claims.'" Id. at 930.
Petitioner thus has not established this first basis for equitable tolling.
Equitable tolling is also available “when a prisoner is actually innocent.” Gibson, 232
F.3d at 808 (citing Miller, 141 F.3d at 978). And, the evidence of actual innocence proffered
must meet three criteria: (1) new, (2) reliable, and (3) so probative and compelling that no
reasonable juror could find guilt. See Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298, 324-29 (1995). Neither the
first nor third requirements are met here.
First, the DNA evidence is not new. On its face, the DNA report dates from January 2005
and has been fully available to Petitioner since before his guilty pleas. Second, Petitioner has no
plausible claim to actual innocence. The DNA report is inconclusive and does not exonerate him.
Other evidence existed, including victim and Petitioner statements, that could have been used
against him. Therefore, there is no basis to conclude that “no juror, acting reasonably, would
have voted to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” Schlup, 513 U.S. at 327, 329.
Having established that tolling does not apply here, the Court determines that the period
of limitation ran out on January 21, 2007—almost nine years before the filing of this petition.
With no extraordinary circumstances deterring him from diligently pursuing his federal habeas
claims, Petitioner inexcusably let his rights lie fallow for years. Accordingly, the above claims
before the Court were filed past the one-year period of limitation. And, neither statutory
exceptions nor equitable tolling apply to save Petitioner from the period of limitation's operation.
Petitioner's claims are thus denied.
IT IS ORDERED that Respondent’s motion to dismiss is GRANTED. (Docket Entry #
12.) This action is DISMISSED with prejudice.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a certificate of appealability is DENIED.
This case is CLOSED.
DATED this 15th day of August , 2017.
BY THE COURT:
DALE A. KIMBALL
United States District Judge
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